that is the end of the rule of law and the breakdown of democracy were the harsh words the Chief Justice of India used yesterday while haring the pathetic excuses of a government caught red handed!
Thanks heaven for the rule of law, no matter how tardy, it ultimately catches up and sets things right.
As the Supreme court verdict enfolded, it was pathetic to see that no one truly understood what was at stake. Everyone was busy protecting his own tiny reality be it the traders, the politicians or the administrators. I am no judge but even I find the arguments put forward laughable and almost contemptuous. An elected government that confesses it cannot handle law and order, an angry trader community that decides to oppose the law, and petty politicians looking at ways to further their hidden agendas.
What one would have liked to see is all concerned accept part of the responsibility and put forward a concrete option whereby everyone gave up a little. maybe the courts would have lent a more lenient view.
Laws exist from time immemorial when human beings decided to give up their solitary living to form a social group. What we have been witnessing over the past years is an absolute disregard for laws and a proliferation of news ways to break them. I was appalled when a trader friend explained to me the difference between having a shutter and a gate, the former being commercial, the later within the law, never mind if the activity within the gate/shutter is the same.
The government has done nothing for crucial urban issues like habitat for the poor. An example is the Lohar – nomadic – community of Delhi, who has been promised resettlement for the past 25 years and not got any. They still live in shanties along the main arteries of our society. But hold on, the shanties have a postal address, its occupants a voter ID.
Migrate to India’s capital city and two years down the line you become a voter; try and get a caste certificate to be able to qualify to the innumerable schemes and you are asked to prove that your family resides in this city since 1951!
The situation that we face has taken years of corruption, and law breaking to come to what it is today. And the law has been broken with great impunity. Wonder why?
I guess it is because our moral and social fibre has been corrupted and we are we have turned into a selfish bunch of people. We are appalled by the slums and are willing to defend sari shops and branded good stores.
Never mind if the former is because we just forgot that the poor needed proper habitat, though we continue to use greedily all the services they offer and the later, the later our own kind so deserve our support. Only, as we are above all selfish, we are willing to withdraw our sympathy when their acts irk us – namely we cannot go shopping, send our children to school and go for our kitty party, or simply commute.
The government has tracts of land available, wonder why everyone does not for once give up their petty agendas and sit around a table and work out a resettlement plan that could then humbly be presented to a court. I was aghast to read in the press that politicians of the ruling party are busy inventing new band-aid fixes that range beyond the gate/shutter one: divide the shop between brothers so that it comes within the limits, wall the facade till a solution is found, shift your ware to your house etc
Driving this morning to pwhy – as we are open – was an eerie experience as the hustle bustle of the roads was no there to greet one and reassure us that all was well. There were no children in their sparkling uniforms rushing to school. A city is held to ransom because someone someday had broken a law and no one was there to stop him.
reminds of the story of the boy walking to the gallows who tells his weeping mother: why didn’t you slap me the first time I broke the law!
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One was born in a place that has acquired a generic name in north india – madrassi – and the others were born on a polluted road side waiting for unfulfilled promises of an uncaring administration.. one traces its ancestry to one of the 12 rishis, the others to the lost battle of haldighat and hurriedly taken wows that made them nomads.. and yet in the scorching heat of last week they met… part of an hidden agenda, one that has not been worded or scripted but kept as a close guarded secret..
pwhy has been built on many dreams, some visible and some not quite so. if pwhy began with the determination of giving all children a safe environment to acquire a meaningful education and skills, it also has a flip side, one that addresses itself to the other side of the spectrum: the big children who have already obtained it.
The stubborn refusal to accept any funding that looked impersonal, the obsessive campaign for the yet elusive 1 rupee a day , the endless hours pecking at a computer keyboard were all part of the jealously guarded hidden agenda: that of making the two ends of the spectrum meet and not only get to lknow each other but learn from each other..
Over the past months the toiling hours have paid of and many beautiful connections made and last week when K who works for a software giant in the land of the chosen (or so it is said) spent time with little lohar kids, I am sure he learnt many lessons: that you could learn in scorching heat and breathing fumes, that you could smile and be happy even if you had nothing.
For me India will only change when the twain meet and connect, be it in on the school benches of the elusive common school, or as it happened, through bonds created through invisible networks..
It was party time on planet why thanks to a little girl who lives far away in England. Dhanya had decided to give a very special gift to pwhy a xmas party.
We had two parties one for the big kids with DJ and coffee machine and one for the tiny tots and special kids. The common denominator: everyone had their dancing shoes on..
They danced with abandon and grace. There were the little ones and the big ones, the lohars, the special kids, the guests and the staff. It was touching to see that everyone no matter how little they had, no matter how tiny and dark their home, everyone had made the effort to be beautiful. You could see the younger girls with hurriedly applied make up, the high heels that made one wobble a little, the bright coloured shirts the boys doned with new found confidence, the hair pasted with gel in the latest style.
As the DJ belted out favourites, squeals of joy could be heard as the dance floor filled with would be stars trying to match the steps seen on the ever present TV screen. The energy was palpable, the mood upbeat and the party a success.
Even the little ones the next day, some not quite three, took to the floor with the same aplomb. And everyone, big or small enjoyed the food. But the proverbial clock would strike midnight and the party had to end before the magic weared out. The coachmen of the night – radhey, tuntun and sitaram – were there to see everyone safely home.
What was truly remarkable was the impeccable behavior of these often misunderstood children. No food was wasted, no fight occured, no one was teased or laughed at and to my utter surprise nothing littered the floor after everyone had left. Every plate, cup and napkin had been placed in the right bins..
A lesson for all…
the following story – a true one- would have made you smile, if it did not affect a child’s life.
pawan is a class III student that comes to our Lohar Camp Primary programme. he is a bright boy and an eager learner. He comes from a very poor family: his father pulls a rickshaw and hos mother cleans home.
All seems well with this young fellow except a slight limp, and unsteady gait, and sudden falls. When you look closely at his ankle that is still not healed, you can see a huge gap.
Almost a year back, an asbestos sheet fell on little pawan’s foot in the municpal school he attends. After a couple of days of home remedies, his parents took him to safdarjung hospital as the pain was excruciating and the ankle swollen. pawan was kept in hospital for many weeks but the anke did not seem to be getting better.
One day a doctor came and told the family that their son needed support. The bewildered family not quite comprehending what was meant and too frightened to ask, simply thought that what was needed was the support of of some important person. They simply took their son home.
When Gita, our teacher came to us with pawan’s story we tried to make sense of what had happened and to our horror understood that what the doctor meant was that pawan’s ankle needed some form of prosthetic support!
pawan will soon be taken back to hospital and we hope to be bale to get him the care he needs.
I dropped by the Lohar camp today and once again was taken in by the warmth and generosity of this proud people. Kamlesh was cooking makki rotis and I got treated to one, topped with sarson saag and oodles of white butter.
From the corner of my eye, I saw that the quantity of dough kneaded was tiny and that maybe what was being offered to me with so much love was someone’s much deserved lunch. But then not accepting it would be he ultimate humiliation for this proud people. I sat on the proferred charpoy, on the main road to the amused looks passers by, and savoured this offering of love…
We set down to discuss what I had come for and I was, once again, taken in by the rapidity with which everything I said was understood and improved on.. Then I walked through the basti – just 32 ramshackle tents along the main road – to greet old friends. As I walked I sensed that something was amiss. The smiles were there and the warmth too, but there seemed to be a lassitude, an imperceptible feeling of hopelesness that I had not see earlier. It was more than understandable: it had now been almost 4 long years since we started our project in the basti and launched our legal battle to get the Lohars what had been promised to them: permanent shelter. The Public Interest Litigation is still pending in the High Court. Our plea to the NHRC for the plight of these children remained unheard. These children of India, who enjoy the same constitutional rights as yours or mine, see the light of day in dingy tents, getting their first breath of car fumes instead of fresh air…
They came to the city much before other migrants, over 55 years ago and still live on roadsides. Vague and empty promises were made to them as their tents were given a smart sounding address – rana pratap camp – thus bringing them into the voter’s net. But they lie forgotten, waiting for a miracle.
Their children have grown with urban tastes and want to be included in what is their rightful home. But they bear the brunt of labels given to nomads the world over. Yetwhen you ask them what their favourite food is they reply in unison: pizza!
Habitat for the poor is an alarming problem. Haphazard constructions on reclaimed land led to the Bombay and more recent Chennai floods. The sad part is that no real solution will emerge as they would shake the precarious political equations in place.
One has to seriously think of telling people to take back the skills acquired to their habitat of origin to ease out the pressure that will choke our cities to death. Habitat with basic amenities have to be built for those that will remian, as we must not forget that their form an integral part of our society in which they have a vital role to play.
We try at pwhy to make the children realise this by valorising their habitat of origin and tellin them that they need to take back what they have learnt to other children in the villages, as every child cannot come and live in cities. this is one of the reasons the pwhy model is based on in-house resources.
I am not one to beleive that this will not happen some day.. when the people themselves realise what is best for them.. recently the mother of 6 children said in the course of converstaion that in the village her children were in better health as they could have access to vegetables and milk and good water, and run in the fields..
I simply smiled… a matter of time it is.
sunday evening saw a star meet a young boy and a spirited woman..
yes akshay kumar, the bollywood hero met Arun the young valmiki boy whose heart surgery was sponsored by him, and Bindiya a lovely lohar (gypsy) lady who won our raffle and hence a meeting with the star..
the venue the home of our friend vikraant who had made this possible..
the smiles on the picture say it all: there were no cameras, no flash lights, no media, no buzz, just people meeting people, discovering each other, bonding in a humane manner.
it was delightful to see akshay holding on to arun’s hand an answering the candid questions of this young boy; it was touching to see him take time to find out about the Lohars and their history…
it was a great simple moment, where no one was pretending to be something or someone else, as there was no one to watch. just people bonding in one happy instant that each one would carry as a memory.
and for that moment in time everyone was a *star*!